The heartbroken mum of missing Ben Needham from Sheffield said today news the Home Office has awarded funding to South Yorkshire Police to step up the search for her son was ‘bittersweet’.
A request for funding was made by the force’s former Police and Crime Commissioner Shaun Wright in February 2014 to allow detectives to ‘continue to support’ the Greek authorities in the 23-year search for Ben.
The blond tot was 21 months old when he vanished in Kos, in July 1991.
Kerry Needham, 42, from Ecclesfield, said it had been a painful wait for an answer.
She said: “It is bittersweet. We are overjoyed but it has been a long time coming and a painful wait.
“We are extremely happy the Home Office has finally given South Yorkshire Police funding but we are still angry it has taken so long.
“In my view, as Ben’s mum, it shouldn’t have even needed considering. I believe that once South Yorkshire Police requested the funding, their judgement should have been enough.
“We could have sat through Christmas and New Year maybe knowing what had happened to Ben.”
Ben’s sister Leighanna, 20, said: “At the moment we will stay here, but if we are needed to go out then we will be on the first flight out there. “We will always be kept updated every step of the way.”
The news comes a month after Human Rights lawyer Ian Brownhill wrote to Home Secretary Teresa May to press for a decision over funding on behalf of the Needham family.
South Yorkshire Police’s new PCC Dr Alan Billings, said the extra funding would allow new lines of enquiry to be pursued.
He added: “I fully support South Yorkshire Police in their ongoing pursuit of the facts. They have worked hard in facilitating the Greek authorities’ investigation into Ben’s disappearance but there is still more work to do. This will be made easier with this additional funding, which will allow further lines of inquiry to be explored.
“I’m pleased that the Home Office saw fit to support us in this commitment and have agreed to provide additional funding which will allow South Yorkshire Police to further their investigations into the disappearance.”
Detective Superintendent Matt Fenwick said: ““Ben was a very young child when he went missing 23 years ago. His family has endured untold pain and anguish in the years that followed and have never given up in trying to find him.
“South Yorkshire Police has provided support to the Greek authorities wherever requested in assisting with the investigation.
“We hope by continuing to work with them, we can assist in providing the answers Ben’s family so desperately want.”
* Read today’s other stories: